Summit County lodges break all-time revenue records as economy continues to recover
The pros called it from the beginning: This winter was one for the record books.
In February, the Denver-based analytics firm DestiMetrics predicted that lodges in Summit County and across Colorado would break all-time revenue and visit records, based almost solely on an uptick in early reservations from out-of-state guests.
Last week, the firm released its retrospective for the entire winter season, looking at the six-month span from November to April. And the findings were doozies: Lodging revenue this season beat the previous record holder of 2007-08 by 1.2 percent, while it outpaced last season by roughly 11 percent.
Predictions and final figures are both based on data collected from 19 mountain resorts split between the Far West region of California, Oregon and Nevada, and the Rocky Mountain region, including Colorado, Wyoming and Utah.
The final lodging numbers weren’t quite as impressive as mid-season predictions — a warm spell in February and March took a bite out of the revenue forecasting model — but they reflect ground-level marketing tackled by lodges and organizations like the Breckenridge Tourism Office.
“This winter we probably won a lot of people from California and other areas that weren’t doing as well,” says Toby Babich, president of the Breckenridge Lodging Association. “Along with that, the economy is just better. Travel spending is up, our local tourism office has put a lot of focus on promoting Breckenridge to a national and worldwide audience.”
Good winter, better summer
With winter in the rearview, Garrison and his team have now shifted to summer forecasts.
As of April 30, on-the-books occupancy across both regions is up nearly 9 percent compared to last summer, with increased bookings in all six months and double-digit increases in the shoulder months of May, September and October. It’s statistical proof that recent marketing pushes for year-round recreation are reaching a new — and willing — audience.
“For many years the town of Breckenridge has keyed our shoulder seasons as a time for development,” Babich says. “That’s where you get Oktoberfest and these other events, and we’ve noticed tourism is getting stronger and stronger, even in historically quiet times.”
Local business owners aren’t the only group to benefit from new interest in previously dead seasons. As the economy continues to improve, bringing more guests with more disposable income, Babich is confident that locals at every level — clerks, bike techs, baristas — will benefit.
“Having a year-round revenue source, even if it’s small, has a major impact on our workforce and local economy,” Babich says. “We’re seeing a lot of our businesses finding a new ability to contain a workforce on a year-round basis, and that really benefits us as a town that likes to be known as a town, rather than just a resort.”
The strong summertime growth is accompanied by a moderate increase in the average daily rate for lodges — yet another side effect of a burgeoning economy.
When combined with increased bookings, Destimetrics is forecasting a 13 percent revenue gain for the summer season from May to October. And while summer is still in its infancy, current bookings as of April 30 are nearly 3 percent ahead of last summer.
“Part of it is a strong economy, part of it is that summer is coming into its own,” Garrison says. “Lodging in summer is about half the price of winter, and right now people have discretionary money, their stock portfolios are doing well — people just feel like they have money to spend right now.”
Given the strength of the past few summers — lodging revenue and occupancy has grown each of the past five years — Garrison is paying particular attention to this summer’s booking activity. True, Destimetrics doesn’t have as much summer data as winter data, he says, and that discrepancy could slightly skew the year-over-year summertime increases.
But Garrison still believes that Colorado resorts are fast trading the winter-summer mentality for a more balanced, year-round approach. As Babich alludes to, tourists now see Breck, Frisco and the rest of Summit as full-fledged towns — not just winter getaways.
“We started as one-trick ponies, calling ourselves ‘ski areas,’” Garrison says. “Then we went to ‘ski resorts,’ suggesting there was more than skiing, and now we’re calling ourselves ‘mountain resorts,’ implying there’s more than winter happening here. Now, you have the baby boomer and retirement communities popping up.”
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